Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met yesterday with Prem Watsa, founder and Chief Executive of Canadian insurance conglomerate Fairfax Financial Holdings, who expressed optimism for Greece. Watsa’s company owns a 13.6% stake in the Greek financial institution Eurobank. Speaking to senior executives of Eurobank and subsidiary property firm Grivalia, Watsa said: "I’m optimistic for Greece. In a year from now, the environment will be different. In the new environment, the economy will recover significantly. Greece has numerous advantages."

Turning his attention to Eurobank, he said once uncertainty about the Greek economy is lifted, the bank’s progress will be outstanding. "In spite of the fact that the bank’s share initially rose and then fell…its economic fundamentals have not changed…Short-term fluctuations, either in share price or in the economy, are not a reason for concern. Things will turn around," Watsa told bankers and officials. 

In Greece, apart from Eurobank and subsidiary Grivalia, Fairfax bought Praktiker Hellas in 2014 and owns more than 5% of Mytilineos Group.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in an op-ed, published in "Project Syndicate" yesterday (25.5) writes that a common fallacy pervading world media coverage is that "Athens is unable or unwilling – or both – to implement an economic reform programme." The reality of the talks is very different, according to Varoufakis: "Our government is keen to implement a reform agenda that includes an independent tax agency; reasonable primary fiscal surpluses forever; a sensible and ambitious privatisation programme; genuine pension reform; liberalization of markets for goods and services, etc.

The sticking point in Greece's negotiations with its creditors, is not Athens' unwillingness to carry out economic reforms, but the creditors' insistence on even greater austerity, "an approach that would impede recovery, obstruct growth, worsen the debt-deflationary cycle, and, in the end, erode Greeks’ willingness and ability to see through the reform agenda that the country so desperately needs."

Varoufakis concludes by saying that "the only deal-breaker, is the creditors' insistence on even more austerity even at the expense of the reform agenda that our government is eager to pursue."

The Greek pharmaceutical industry suffered a major blow in the first years of the economic crisis (2010/11). However, since 2013, pharmaceutical companies are once again profitable, according to a report by Grant Thornton - Greece on the industry responsible for the development, production and marketing of medications, which is generating about 6€ billion in sales annually.

The Greek pharmaceutical sector (approximately 400 companies) is dominated by large and very large companies (70%), while small and medium sized companies account for 30% of the market. The industry’s portfolio is diversified, ranging from local companies producing their own generic drugs to affiliated companies promoting well established patents. Regarding the industry’s return to profitability, the report shows that since 2013, all large and very large companies showed profits.

Moreover, forecasts for the future are optimistic, and call for more R&D spending, increase in exports, promotion of local brands, growth in the generic drugs market share, and investment in qualified and specialised human capital.

Finally, it is worth noting that the worldwide pharmaceutical business is thriving. In 2001, worldwide revenue was around €350bn. Ten years later, figures have almost tripled, and the landmark figure of €1 trillion is expected to be reached by 2018.

See also: Grant-Thornton Signs of Strength and a Glimmer of Development (December 2014, in Greek); ExportGate.gr: Greek pharmaceutical companies

A bilingual (Greek-Russian) book Ancient Greek Myths: Cosmogony featuring 279 illustrations of ancient Greek myths was published for the first time in Russia. This unique edition was created as part of the Year of Literature, which is currently being celebrated in Russia, ahead of the 2016 Year of Friendship between the two countries.

“I did the editing and literary description of Hesiod’s Theogony with much love,” says professor and writer Irina Beletskaya, who has been teaching Greek in various educational institutions in Moscow since 2001. The poem Theogony – written in Homeric Greek - describes the origins and genealogies of the Greek gods and it was composed circa 700 B.C. The recently published book was presented on May 20 at the Moscow “Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev” Fine Arts Museum, part of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

The Athens and Epidaurus Festival 2015 is celebrating its 60th year and is opening its doors from June 1st to August 31 with a rich theatrical and musical programme, including directors and theatre companies of international acclaim, such as Romeo Castellucci with Societas Raffaello Sanzio and Thomas Ostermeier with Schaubuhne, as well as Companies such as She She Pop from Berlin, Young Jean Lee’s Theatre from New York.

This year’s programme will open on June 1st with Dimitris Mavrikios’ theatrical version of Emanuel Roidis' Pope Joan.The performance is based on a text that interweaves elements from the banned 1866 novel of the same title but also from Roidis’ life with his mother, Chios-born noblewoman Kornilia Rodokanaki, a woman with a tumultuous life, who was imprisoned and sold as a slave in a harem, following the Destruction of Chios in 1822.